Summary: Have you ever set out after something and you got close but you didn’t quite get it? Just coming close can be pretty debilitating and frustrating. But nothing would be worse than getting close to the kingdom of God but not getting there.
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR
INTRODUCTION: Have you ever set out after something and you got close but you didn’t quite get it? Coming close can be pretty debilitating and frustrating. Perhaps no one knows that better than the 2007 Patriots. Here they were undefeated at 18-0, playing in the 2008 Super bowl, on the verge of putting together the greatest season in NFL history, all they needed to do was beat the Giants. But it was not to be. They were close. Only four points kept them from getting there. But, instead of being Super bowl champs with a perfect 19-0 record, they finished as super bowl losers with 18 wins and one, Giant loss. As bad as that loss was for them, which from what I understand still haunts Tom Brady to this day, it pales in comparison to what would be much more haunting-getting close to the kingdom of God but not getting there. Getting close is not good enough.
1) You’re not there but you’re close.
Background-Jesus had been stirring things up for the religious leaders and teachers of the law. They had questioned his authority and they had been trying to trip him up with questions about paying taxes to Caesar and about marriage in heaven. Then, one of the teachers of the law was intrigued with what he was seeing in Jesus.
Mark 12:28-34. As a teacher of the law, he and his colleagues no doubt discussed issues like this. Who knows how heated the debates got. So this teacher of the law decided to put Jesus to the test and ask him what he thought about the topic.
And we see that he liked Jesus’ answer. He was impressed with how Jesus responded. I can see a switch going off in his mind. Up until now, he may have been merely intellectual and legalistic in his view of the commandments but now he was beginning to see things from a different perspective-love. All teachers of the law would know what the law said but he had reached the place where he saw that love was more important than religious activity.
Vs. 34-he answered Jesus wisely. He showed he understood what Jesus was getting at when he applies what Jesus said about love in contrast to burnt offerings and sacrifices. He made the connection without Jesus having to make it for him. This showed he was answering wisely. Jesus is telling him he was not far because it was that level of wisdom that was necessary in order to move him from understanding to applying. Now that he understood the principle he now needed to act on it and make it the essence of his life.
We don’t know what happened from here but I hope this wasn’t the last time he hooked up with Jesus. However, all we have to go on was the fact that his current status was he was not yet at the place where he would take the risks involved with committing himself to being a follower of Jesus. He wasn’t at the place to move from calling Jesus teacher to calling him Savior and Lord. He may have recognized the superiority of love over sacrifice but he wasn’t yet at the place to live by such a rule. It’s one thing to be religious; it’s quite another to be spiritual. It’s one thing to know; it’s another to do.
James 2:14-19. There are two kinds of faith; there are two kinds of belief. There’s surface level faith where one acknowledges certain truths about Jesus and then there’s the level of faith that takes acknowledgment and moves it into being convinced. The level of faith that goes from thought to action. This is the difference between being close to the kingdom of God and being in the kingdom of God.
2) If I’m close what might be keeping me from getting in?
• Sometimes it’s a lack of knowledge.
Acts 18:24-28. Apollos had knowledge but was not saved. He was close to the kingdom but not in. He was educated and had a thorough knowledge of the scriptures but he had a lack of knowledge about the gospel. He knew about Jesus and taught accurately about him but had only a limited knowledge when it came to salvation through Jesus; for he only knew about John’s baptism of repentance, not the baptism done in the name of Jesus for forgiveness of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit that Peter taught about in Acts 2:38.
So, Priscilla and Aquila, knowing Apollos was not far from the kingdom, took him in and explained things more fully to him. He had to be taught the way of God more adequately. Some people have learned the scriptures but are not yet in the kingdom because their knowledge is limited. They understand certain things but they have a lack of understanding when it comes to the gospel and how to respond to it. So they would be someone who is not far from the kingdom of God; they are close but not in.